Washington, December 2
The US House of Representatives is slated to consider on Thursday the Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative Act which was written by legendary civil rights activists Congressman John Lewis, who died early this year.
Cosponsored by Indian-American Congressman Dr Ami Bera, the Bill establishes a US-India public-private development foundation and several bilateral exchange initiatives intended to support the study and promotion of the nonviolent protest philosophies and civil rights legacies of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
Passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee by voice vote, the Bill will be considered under suspension of the rules, with 40 minutes of debate. A two-thirds majority vote is required for its passage.
Specifically, the Bill directs the US Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State and in coordination with appropriate counterparts in the Government of India, to establish a United States-India Gandhi-King Development Foundation to identify development priorities and administer and oversee competitively awarded grants to private nongovernmental entities in India.
It also directs the secretary of State to establish, in cooperation with the Indian government, a professional exchange program known as the ‘Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative’ to provide an annual educational forum for scholars from the US and India that focuses on the social justice and human and civil rights legacies of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
Among other things, the bill requires the president and chief executive officer of the US Institute of Peace to develop a professional development training initiative (to be known as the Gandhi-King Global Academy) on conflict resolution tools based on the principles of nonviolence.
The measure authorises USD1 million a year through fiscal 2025 for the Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative.
It authorises USD 2 million for just FY 2021 for the Gandhi-King Global Academy, and USD30 million for 2021 for the US-India Gandhi-King Development Foundation.
The development foundation would also be authorized at USD15 million per year from 2022 through 025 — but only if India’s private sector commits to match U.S. government contributions.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the bill would cost $51 million over five years.
Said Bera. “As the world’s oldest and largest democracies, the United States and India have long traditions of upholding these shared values championed by figures like Gandhi, King, and Congressman Lewis. But they are increasingly under threat in both countries,” he said.
“This legislation will help ensure those values endure and remind us that by holding true to them, we embody and live up to the best of our two nations,” Bera said. PTI